The Latin prefix para means beside or beyond. Not unlike the word supernatural, paranormal refers to any phenomenon that eludes explanation through science or conventional wisdom.
It can be a misleading term because the idea of ‘normal’ is open to debate. At what precise point, for instance, does mere intuition or insight become ESP or clairvoyance?
Funnily enough, the US courts still provide the option of placing the right hand on the Bible when taking an oath—and the Bible is a book premised on, and which invites believers to enjoy eternal rest in, a ‘paranormal’ realm called heaven.
Likewise, the more recent versions of the psychiatric diagnostic manual accept as normal those religious beliefs, which sometimes include the paranormal, that are well-established and actively practiced within a given culture.
Traditional religious persons tend to look down on the paranormal, saying that it deals with magic, evil spirits, the occult and demonic realms, while heaven is said to be a faith-based concept denoting God‘s realm.
Many who believe they have psi abilities apparently don’t report them for fear of the repercussions–i.e. they don’t want to be ridiculed, bullied, harassed, stigmatized or marginalized.
We can only wonder how many might possess genuine psi abilities yet go unrecorded by statistics, which in turn contribute to the definition of the ‘normal.’
The issues of social visibility and unreliable statistics compel us to ask whether ‘normal’ and ‘paranormal’ are relative instead of absolute categories. Just as postmoderns deconstruct the notion of “the natural,” it seems that the line between normal and paranormal could be a historically relative and situation-specific one.
- Science journalism faces media changes, emerging discoveries – Article by Steve Hammons that questions the cut and dried distinction between normal and paranormal, outlining the need for science to be more inclusive of so-called paranormal phenomena